Ohio

Reflections on APL’s World Premiere Tour of Crime + Punishment
by Artistic Associate Tyler J. Polumsky

 

“I went back to Ohio… But my city was gone…”

 

Entrance to The Balch Street Theatre, home of New World Performance Laboratory (Akron OH) | Photo: Joseph Lavy

Entrance to The Balch Street Theatre, home of New World Performance Laboratory (Akron OH) | Photo: Joseph Lavy

Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders sang that way back in October 1982, on a B side, in lament for her hometown – Akron – and the changes that had turned the serene beauty of her childhood home into something unrecognizable.

Three and a half decades on, I also went [back] to Ohio, but my city was not gone. I went [back] to Ohio, but my family was not gone. No, no. My city was found, my family was there with me, and it just kept growing. For me, nothing was unrecognizable. It was, in fact, as if it was just waiting to be discovered.

There in Akron, you see, just west of downtown, is a little place on Balch Street.* Maybe a little run down. Maybe a little dusty. More than perfect for a theatre company to have as its own home.

A home is a vital thing for making our art. Not to be scoffed at. And this home is far more than most companies I know have.

“Ay… oh… way to go…”

Tyler Polumsky as Raskolnikov in the world premiere of Crime + Punishment | Balch Street Theatre, Akron OH | Photo: Margaretta Campagna

Enter New World Performance Lab.

NWPL is the kind of company you would expect to find in Europe. They are a well-established company. They have been cultivating and culturing their own audience for 25 years. Most of the core ensemble members have been working together for decades. They have their own space. They make art. They do not seem to care much for many of the fancy follies that theatre companies in big metros break themselves on. They have their own terms and direction, and it is Art. They are an intellectual and spiritual pillar of a community. Ten minutes with any of them is enough to make that clear.

Imagine designers who can take a pile of urban waste and turn it into minimalist stagecraft confection. Imagine a board op who prefers to run the light board manually because “The operator needs to be following and working with the actors, live, as a partner, on any given night.” Imagine actors who will let themselves be eaten alive by mosquitos before they will stop their training. The kind of folks who would jump on an actual boat with a pocket full of change, third class, en route to Europe, with dreams of working with Jerzy Grotowski unannounced — not only doing it but going on to become among his closest collaborators.

Imagine leaders who throw the doors open for you so you can premiere your show, who share their wine and guest rooms at home when it’s time to rest, and who put coffee on the next morning so you can get back to it.

 “Ay, oh, way to go…”

So here, naturally, we from Akropolis Performance Lab, tired and road weary, jolly as ever, in this old community hall, in a beautiful and versatile space, surrounded by some excellent brothers and sisters in art, dug right in and premiered our adaptation of Dostoevsky’s Crime + Punishment to an audience hungry for theatre built on sweat, blood, and dynamic creativity rather than popped out of a can.

Tyler J. Polumksy as Raskolnikov | Crime + Punishment (92017-18) | Balch Street Theatre, Akron OH | Photo: Margaretta Campagna

Tyler J. Polumksy as Raskolnikov in the world premiere of Crime + Punishment | Balch Street Theatre, Akron OH | Photo: Margaretta Campagna

in the world premiere of Crime + Punishment

in the world premiere of Crime + Punishment

It went well. How could it have gone otherwise, really, in such an inspired place, among inspired people?

APL and NWPL felt to me like long-lost siblings. This surprised me even though I knew APL’s co-founders were founding members of NWPL before moving to Seattle. The reunion of such things is profound, marked by joy and a mutual curiosity peppered with excitement.

We know ourselves by knowing each other, it seems.

And when you have an audience that has been cultivated, educated, and prepped for all of your experiments — an open audience, hungry for the resonating thought and questions your work will provoke — well, that is when theatre is really ready to happen.

And it did.

“…All my favorite places…”

Shortly before we went, a friend joked to me that going to Ohio to tour a show would be like going to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where I had spent 10 years with the Ilkholm Theatre. I understood the dig: it’s not New York. Very clever.

“…My city had been pulled down… reduced to parking spaces…”

The thing is, he was right. He just wasn’t right in the way he intended.

“…I was stunned and amazed…”

What I found [back] in Ohio — what I have found in my artistic home with APL and recognized as equally potent in NWPL — is a little thing called inspiration (a little, ilkhom, if you are up on your Uzbek). The main ingredient for true Art. Actual artists who are busy being humans … not people just busy trying to be “Artists.” A space that is begging for a life and roaring back in unexpected places. A theatre that functions as a human institution rather than merely a civic or historical one.

So, yeah — a little like going [back] to Tashkent.

And why shouldn’t a place like this be found in America’s heartland? All roads lead to Ohio. Check a map. Follow any national election. Read the history. Ohio is at the center — “The Heart of It All!” as the state slogan goes.

What a setting! Deep in the heart of the American Beast, at a historically dire and dark time, APL was making some bone-biting theatre. Right there in Ohio.

I went back to Ohio, and my city was right there.

I went back to Ohio, and my family was right there with me, and growing.

And I’ll go back to Ohio, my pretty countryside.

“Ay… Oh… Way to go… OHIO”

* Built in 1929 as Akron’s Jewish Center, this once thriving building was essentially deserted by 1985. Over the next 25 years it changed hands several times but amid the recession and other complications became more and more run down until, in 2011, Akron Beacon Journal columnist Bob Dyer published an article calling it a “wreck.” Shortly thereafter, the City of Akron forged an agreement with New World Performance Lab and the Center for Applied Theatre & Active Culture to take over the theatre portion of the building. Since then, NWPL/CATAC have been cleaning up and caring for the space, pursuing strategic repairs, and fostering a new, vibrant community of artists and audiences.
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Crime + Punishment Ticket Sales are Open!

Venture into the lower depths of 19th-century St. Petersburg, where the mysteries of the Russian soul and intellect, crime and love are deeply, irrevocably entwined as we reveal the mind of a killer in his search for meaning and redemption. Did we mention there’s a hurdy gurdy?!

Find complete information about Crime + Punishment: a psychological account of a particular crime on our SHOW PAGE.

Tickets are now on sale for performances in Ohio and Washington. Reserve your seats today!

Nov 30 – Dec 2 | Akron OH – Balch Street Theatre
Jan 5 – 13 | Seattle WA – West of Lenin

 

Crime + Punishment will play at West of Lenin

If you’ve been watching for announcements about our upcoming production of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, please note our new venue:  West of Lenin!

We will perform Crime + Punishment: a psychological account of a certain crime at that outstanding Fremont venue January 5-13.

This production marks the first time since 2004 that APL has elected to produce a full-scale work in a traditional theatre space.

Our work has always been developed with sensitivity to the relationship between the performance art and the specific architecture it inhabits. We call our work “site responsive” – designed to interact organically and flexibly within each unique space used.

Over the years, we have produced in a Beacon Hill historical estate house, the Volunteer Park Water Tower, a church sanctuary in Ballard, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community lodge, and the basement of our own home. Although it’s been awhile, we also have produced in conventional theatre venues such as On the Boards Studio, Capitol Hill Arts Center (CHAC), Freehold and Seattle Chamber Theatre (when the Oddfellows Building was an arts space), Theatre4, and The Balch Street Theatre.

Wherever we perform, rest assured the artistic principles, vision, and commitment to austerity and intimacy that define our work as uniquely APL will continue to guide us without compromise.

Crime + Punishment: a psychological account of a certain crime, formerly referred to under the working title 730 Steps, is developing into a highly theatrical piece. A small, invitation-only rendering in July yielded great feedback for our fine tuning.

We can’t wait for you to experience the finished piece at West of Lenin’s beautiful theatre!

Ink us in for a date: January 5-13 at West of Lenin, 203 N 36th St, Seattle!

Ticket info coming soon.

Get a Sneak Peek at 730 Steps!

Devising Duklida: Joseph Lavy (R) provides feedback to ensemble members (clockwise from L) Emily Jo Testa, Tyler Polumsky, Matt Sherrill, and Annie Paladino during the devising process.

Devising Duklida: Joseph Lavy (R) provides feedback to ensemble members (clockwise from L) Emily Jo Testa, Tyler Polumsky, Matt Sherrill, and Annie Paladino during the devising process.

Please join us Friday, July 28, for a full rendering of our work-in-progress on 730 Steps.

 

This was the culmination of a year’s work, which began July 23, 2016, with a reading of the initial rehearsal script. As with any new-work, and especially with source material of the scope and complexity of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, the generative phase of our development process has been richly rewarding. We now have a wealth of material to put in front of an audience for feedback.

What is a rendering?

Akropolis uses “rendering” as a particular term of art. On the one had, there is the common sense definition related to performance and the word rendition: representing or depicting something artistically; causing something to be; submitting something for inspection. However, in our work “rendering” always incorporates an older meaning that is less commonly used today: melting something down; extracting parts; or clarifying (as with butter). For APL, a rendering is always an opportunity through performance — whether for an audience of 100 or 1 — to present work for inspection for the express purpose of clarifying it, identifying parts to cut, rearrange, or reshape.

 

The July 28 rendering is an important part of 730 Steps’ development process. The feedback we receive will help us shape the final form of this massive production!

You can expect to see scene work developed to date, in continuous performance. Where there is material still to be devised for major plot points, we will represent that material in a more temporary performance manner. While the finished piece will incorporate music, we will not perform music as part of the rendering. Actors will be in costume. Major props and set pieces will be used, and there will be basic theatrical lighting. Audience will be seated on 3 sides of the action on padded chairs, and there will be risers for optimal viewing.

Plan for a 4 hour viewing. The rendering begins at 7:30 pm. You are welcome to arrive as early as 7:00 pm. Light refreshments will be provided.

This one-night event is free and open to the public. However, to comply with the wishes of our donated venue, we ask that you send us an email requesting an invitation. Seating is limited, and invitations will be sent out by email on a first-come, first-served basis.

We hope you will join the ensemble around the table afterwards to talk about your observations!

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This project is sponsored, in part, by a grant from 4Culture.

Hitting the Road Next Fall

Rehearsing a murder | Tyler Polumsky & Annie Paladino

Rehearsing a murder | Tyler Polumsky & Annie Paladino

APL has accepted an invitation from the Center for Contemporary Theatre & Active Culture (CATAC) to present  730 Steps as part of Ohio-based New World Performance Lab’s (NWPL) 25th-anniversary celebration season!

Co-Artistic Directors Joseph and Zhenya Lavy were founding members of NWPL, with Zhenya serving as the company’s music director. It is through their work with NWPL and its co-artistic directors, James Slowiak and Jairo Cuesta, who were longtime collaborators of Jerzy Grotowski and authored Routledge Performance Practitioner’s Grotowski, that the Lavys began their journey among the Grotowski diaspora. They not only participated as work leaders in the final year of Grotowski’s Objective Drama program at the University of California-Irvine, but also developed the foundations of the artistic aesthetic, praxis, and ethos which define APL’s work and distinguish our ensemble among Pacific Northwest theatre companies.

730 Steps is APL’s new adaptation of Dostoevsky’s dark, psychological masterpiece Crime and Punishment. This is APL’s fourth performance encounter with Dostoevsky. And while Joseph Lavy has been working on the textual adaptation for more than a year, the seeds of this work were born in the early 1990s.

Watch for more announcements about this exciting tour, as well as our local performances in Seattle.

Welcome Jennifer Crooks as Porfiry Petrovich

Jennifer CrooksJennifer Crooks is our newest APL Affiliate Artist, joining the 730 Steps cast to take over the role of Porfiry Petrovich!

Jenny has been seen locally with GreenStageReAct Theatre, and Ghost Light Theatricals. She’s also appeared with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company and  Constellation Theatre Company.

We can’t wait to get started on our collaboration!

Costume Designer Fantasia Rose joins 730 Steps Creative Team

Fantasia RoseFantasia Rose has joined the 730 Steps production team as Costume Designer!

Originally from Northern California, Fantasia considers herself a professional dabbler. As a makeup artist/stylist/costume designer, she’s had the opportunity to work on various stage and screen projects including: Scary Mary and the Nightmares Nine (Annex Theatre, 2017), Hold Your Head Up (Maiah Manser, Music Video, 2014), and Growing Pains (Don’t Do It, Web Series, 2016). She also has worked on several productions by The Libertinis.

She holds a BFA in Theater from Cornish College of the Arts – Theater Department.

Welcome, Fantasia!

Auditioning Actors for Immediate Vacancy

We have an opening for one actor (non gender-specific, Age: 30-55) to join the cast of 730 Steps (original adaptation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment). Role TBD.

Committed to strengthening a more multicultural artistic community and the principle of diversity, we strongly encourage applications from historically underrepresented groups.

The audition process, which will include a preliminary interview with an APL Artistic Associate and a practical working session with the ensemble, will be conducted February 14-16, 2017.

APL does not generally cast on a per-show basis, making this is a rare opportunity to work with an established and highly regarded ensemble-based company with deep artistic lineage and an international reputation.  While we are specifically looking to fill an unexpected vacancy in the cast of this production, we also will be assessing based upon potential for a more long-term artistic association.

We are committed to rigorous work in a highly focused and personally supportive environment. We are looking for someone interested in creating devised psychophysical theatre following long-form, ensemble-centered methodologies that have evolved out of our nearly 30 years of working in Central and Eastern European theatre traditions.

Considerations:

  • The ideal candidate can begin rehearsing sooner rather than later. We have some flexibility to work around pre-existing commitments. But we would need this actor dedicated full time in the evenings (7pm to 11pm, Mon – Thurs, with some Sundays) beginning no later than May.
  • We are committed to a minimum of 30 minutes of physical training at the beginning of each rehearsal. We would expect this actor to learn our exercises and participate along with the rest of the company.
  • The entire ensemble will be expected to sing Russian traditional and religious songs with complicated harmonies and in their native language.
  • We intend to add this production to a repertoire of pieces available for national and international touring. We would hope this actor could be available when such opportunities arise
  • APL pays a higher-than-average, non-union performance stipend
  • Rehearsals have been ongoing since September. We work within a precisely articulated, longform rehearsal process and are committed to presenting the art only when it is ready. It is important that ensemble members embrace this process.
  • Seattle performance venue is booked for a local run July 14 – 29

If you would like to be considered, please send an email expressing your interest, along with your resume and headshot to ensemble@akropolisperformancelab.com with the subject “730 Steps Audition.”

20 Principles for APL Design (2017)

 

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Visual design is a critical factor in the composition of every Akropolis Performance Lab piece. We are very deliberate in the selection of each element brought in to enhance both the work of the actors and the experience of the spectators, with particular attention not only to cohesion within the production itself, but consistency to the aesthetic principles we’ve developed over nearly 20 years and which form a foundational, minimalist through-line for our entire body of work.

The Glas Nocturne at CATAC Balch Street Theatre Akron OH (Photo: Annie Paladino, 2015)

For the last 10 years or so – in addition to directing – I have acted as scenographer for our productions, in collaboration with our Artistic Associates; determining the scenic, lighting, and costume designs. This throws off some people, who question why no designers are credited, and who wonder if that means we just pull these things together with less emphasis than we place on the acting and dramaturgy. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Every detail of an APL production is a carefully considered aspect of the dramaturgy, approached with equal importance.

This year, we are bringing in designers once again for 730 Steps, prompting me to put into writing those guiding aesthetic principles, so they can be shared and understood by our new partners. And while they are specifically geared toward design in this form, these are the same fundamental principles which guide all aspects of our creative work.

Ecce Faustus at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Ballard WA (Photo: Mark Zufelt 2016)

20 Principles for APL Design

  1. Use as little as possible, but of the best quality possible
    •  based on money, availability, & time
  2. The space is always what it is. The design happens within and in relationship to the-space-itself
  3. Exploit the difficulties and flaws, don’t try to hide them
  4. Don’t provide the spectator with answers. Give them just enough to recognize the questions and draw their own conclusions
  5. Use Real Objects, unless unobtainable
    • Fabricated Objects should be made with the highest degree of craftsmanship and “real world” permanence
    • Theatrical Facsimiles are not acceptable
  6. Everything on stage should be practical. Question anything that is purely decorative
    • Everything should be able to serve multiple functions
      • As it is
      • As it could be
      • As it has never been before
  7. No electronic or recorded sound effects. All sound created by the performers
  8. No Technical Special Effects (fog, strobe, video projection, etc). Whenever possible “stage magic” should be created by the actor or the architecture
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    The Glas Nocturne at APL Downstairs Studio, Lake Forest Park WA (Photo: Joe Patrick Kane 2015)

  9. Shadow is at least as valuable as Light
  10. Before using gobos or other effects, determine whether the same result can be produced by an actor or the architecture interacting with the light
    • If not, What is the intent?
    • is it indispensable?
  11. Use unusual angles
  12. Use color sparingly, to maximum effect
  13. Use everything sparingly, to maximum effect
  14. Costumes should never dictate what an actor cannot do
  15. Actor insight is crucial regarding costumes
  16. Light, set, and costumes should stimulate the spectator to develop an understanding of people, place, and atmosphere
  17. Light, set, and costumes should stimulate the actors toward always greater awareness and precision
  18. Light, set, and costumes should provoke the actor, not solve their problems for them
  19. No principle is inviolate
  20. Once conceived, question everything
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Seneca’s Oedipus at WSFGC Garden House, Seattle WA (Photo Julia Salamonik 2006)

 

Kix on Board for 730 Steps Design

Kix joins the 730 Steps creative team as scenic and lighting designer!

An accomplished Ohio-based freelance mixed artist and sculptor, Kix works as set designer and Assistant Technical Director for New World Performance Laboratory & Center for Applied Theatre and Active Culture, which hosted our 2015 Glas Nocturne tour. She was a creative and resourceful partner for us during our run at The Balch Street Theatre — and great fun to be around!

Kix also works as TD of Magical Theatre Company, TD & Production Designer of Ma’Sue Productions and Center for Applied Drama & Autism, carpenter for Neos Dance Theatre, and electrician for many northeast Ohio ballet companies.

You can see a sampling of her visual art and sculpture work via her online portfolio, kixnit.

Welcome aboard, Kix!